(September 20, 2020)
Upon further reflection of the California Bishops’ year-long initiative against racism, I noticed there are necessary steps in this initiative that are missing, and glaringly so:
- An admission of the Catholic Church’s wrongs with regard to its contribution to racism
- A prayer of reconciliation and forgiveness directed toward the Black community and all Persons of Color.
Without these steps, there is no personal conversion. Rather, the California Bishops’ initiative appears to presuppose a theoretical and indirect dismantling of the sin of racism.
As Thomas Jones noted in his 12-step approach to anti-racism, conversion from racism cannot occur without admitting wrong(s), inviting God in knowing that only through divine grace can one overcome this sin, and desiring to make amends for the sin of racism in order to experience true conversion.
Therefore, the California Bishops need to approach these listening sessions with a desire to know more fully how the Church, the clergy and the laity have inflicted harm on the Black community.
Secondly, the initiative ought to include a formula of prayer for repentance and forgiveness. I propose the Confiteor as a template:
We the bishops and the Church confess to You almighty God
and to you, our African American brothers and sisters,
that we have greatly sinned
in our inequitable thoughts and words,
in what we have done
and especially in what we have failed to do;
our complicity in the sin of racism.
Through our fault,
through our fault,
through our most grievous fault;
therefore we ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, our African American brothers and sisters,
to pray for us to the Lord our God.
We admit our wrong against you, the African American community,
we beg you for forgiveness
and we ask for God’s infinite forgiving mercy.
This prayer cannot be made as a generalization but with felt knowledge of each and every wrong the Catholic Church has committed with respect to racial injustice.
A supplemental suggestion to the California Bishops, which I believe ought to be adapted by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), is if the Church takes the stance of excommunication towards those who involved in the sin of abortion, then this needs to be applied consistently with the sin of racism.
The Church can no longer harbor racists. White nationalists, for example, cannot be allowed to perpetuate their racist beliefs and maintain communion with the Church.
Rather, not only must the sin of racism be denounced, but those actively promoting racism ought to be denounced as well.
Racists who are baptized Catholics cannot be permitted to be in good standing with the Catholic Church unless they recant of these inequitable beliefs and repent for their sins of racism.
Without the implementation of these additional steps, I believe the California Bishops’ initiative is doomed to repeat the failures of the USCCB in addressing racial injustice.
This would continue to diminish the Church’s credibility in Black and minority communities as well as in being a faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.